Singularity of Vision

By | Friday, March 17, 2006 Leave a Comment
I'm a relatively visual person, and that's an easy explanation of why I like comics over "traditional" prose. But that doesn't explain why I like comics more than TV, movies or other more visual media.

Have you ever read through the credits on a TV show or movie? They go on forever; you've got several script writers, editors, producers, actors, directors, set designers... the list goes on and on. And the problem I have with that is that there are SO many people working on the project that the original message(s) get diluted in the final result. Even if you have one person writing, directing and producing a piece, the actors all bring their own unique interpretations to the table. The few movies and shows that I like are the ones whose creator had such a powerful vision that it shines through DESPITE the number of other people working on it. Not surprisingly, those works are ones who are generally associated quite directly with the name of the main creator. Friz Lang's Metropolis. Orson Wells' Citizen Kane. Joss Whedon's Serenity. To a somewhat lesser degree, Gene Rodenberry's Star Trek. George Lucas' Star Wars. Joss Whedon's Firefly.

That's not to say, certainly, that those individuals are the only ones who had something to say, and enough power/drive to get their message through, but they also had a message I appreciated hearing and was well done.

Comics, by their nature, have considerably fewer people working on them and, of those that do, there are generally only one or two people who really have a key role in presenting the message(s). Namely, the writer and the artist. Those two people, if they have a strong vision, find it presented nearly undiluted at all. Take a book like Planetary or Watchmen. Powerful stuff put out by essentially two guys. You want to make something even more powerful? Have only one person working on the whole thing.

Will Eisner. Jack Kirby. Frank Miller. Jeff Smith. These are guys who write and draw very well, and they have something to say. That's partly, I think, why they're legends in the comic book community. At least moreso than, say, Curt Swan or John Buscema. Not to slight either of those two excellent artists, mind you, but I think Miller and Smith will occupy a somewhat different place in the comic book hall of fame than Swan or Buscema.

But it's that type of singularity of vision that I appreciate in my media and why I don't really care for mass-market TV and movies. No matter how well scritped or acted (or whatever) it is, it does not have the same singular voice that you get with comic books. And I think that's why Hollywood has been looking to comics for good ideas lately, because they recognize at some level that voice and are responding to it. (Obviously, though, they generally want to put their OWN stamp on the piece at that point and dilute the message. I doubt many Hollywood execs put that much conscious thought into WHY comics often have better stories than movies and TV.)

But that boils down why I like comics better. After all, why would I want to bother with one medium whose modern conventions inherently make it less powerful than some other medium? Why not just skip right to the more powerful medium in the first place?
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